At the TED Conference last year Bill Gates unleashed a swarm of mosquitoes to demonstrate a point about malaria. This year, he's taking on CO2 in a big way. And he brought fireflies.
The bugs were Gates' example of a living "energy miracle"—the kind we'll need to solve the enormous energy problems that face mankind. Some perspective, from his speech: even if we were to maximize energy efficiency and limit the impact of population size, we'd still be emitting 13 billion tons of carbon annually from energy production.
So what's his solution? First: excluding coal and natural gas altogether from our energy future. Instead, the focus needs to be on carbon capture, nuclear, wind, and solar power. In particular, Gates singled out depleted uranium supplies as having the potential to power the US for centuries. The technology is possible; it's just not being funded.
Despite advances in nuclear power—and particularly the regulation thereof—the idea of nuclear energy still makes Americans skittish. So if Gates is serious about wanting this to happen, he's going to have to do more than open up his wallet. He's going to have to change our perception entirely.
Gates has been posting his thoughts on his TED talk at The Gates Notes, so be sure to look for updates on more specifics around feasibility, implementation, and what insects he's got planned for TED 2011. [TED via CNN Tech]